January 13, 2018
The City “public hearing” on the USDA loan was little more than a way to check off a box on the USDA loan list of things to do. Four citizens were allowed to speak less than 3 minutes each, while consultants spoke for 20 minutes of the 30 minutes allotted to the public hearing.
Consultant confirms that city utility revenues are on the hook for the USDA loan repayment, but thinks that is a great idea.
The consultant admits there is no population growth expected and said that usage would stay the same or go down as well.
City resident, Greg Holder, questioned the need for the property and the loan if there is no population growth and lamented that his pocketbook was at stake since the city had pledged utility revenues to pay the loan.
Other questions asked that need answers (waiting on answers):
· When will this project come online and provide more water? This would include running water lines, refurbishing the wells, putting in a water treatment plant, etc. USDA loan request documents do not say, and according to USDA notes from the initial meeting between Stone Workman and USDA representatives, it shows Workman wanted this project done in phases. Buy the land, then later do the water project, but USDA would not loan money for a project that was not needed presently.
- How many wells are on the property? Newspaper reports, documents, and the consultant all have a different number of wells on the property, ranging from 5 to 8. How many are actually there?
- Will Stone Workman receive any consulting fee or other compensation for helping get the USDA loan since this is something he does do for hire? This is one question that was answered immediately. The mayor said no, but Mr. Workman, former USDA Rural Development State Director, has been intimately involved in getting this loan, and does so for others. He has said it is his expertise.
- What properties are going to be annexed into the City? This was not discussed at the public hearing, but brought up later in the City Council meeting. Are the owners of those properties going to agree to the annexation or is it just going to happen so the City can bring in more tax revenue to help pay for the project?
Mayor Standifer said to submit any questions in writing and they would send the answers. No questions were answered at the public hearing, and many people did not know what questions to ask because all of this has been done in secret, behind closed doors, and in out of town meetings. Yet, Mayor Standifer continuously uses the word “transparency” and how they want everyone to know about the project….after the deal is already done, of course!
There is no doubt that the City is going to get this $9.5M loan/grant package if there is a real need or not. As long as taxpayers foot the bill, nothing seems to be too expensive or too outrageous for our public officials to support.
Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed, can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.